Take your investor relations presentation from sleep inducing to riveting

Illustration courtesy of Oliver Tacke on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Oliver Tacke on Flickr

Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers

We’ve all sat through horrible presentations. Time, in that funny way it has of being relative, slows to a slight trickle while your entire body goes into nap mode.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen presentations where people try to be a little too entertaining. I remember one fellow at a journalism conference I attended who sang and danced (not an exaggeration) during his presentation. He yelled and told jokes and told us to get up and stretch, etc. And while entertaining, everything he said was completely lost on people because we were all paying more attention to his antics than to his words.

You’ve got to strike a balance, especially when the subject matter is serious, like convincing people to invest in your company (even if it sells whoopee cushions). Above all, it should be engaging.

Fortunately, David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner at Sharon Merrill has some great advice for making your investor presentation engaging. He says the investor relations presentation is meant to tell the company’s story, which also doubles as its investment thesis. If your presentation doesn’t succeed in telling a memorable, compelling story, it has failed. (No pressure, though.)

How do we ensure good presentation slides leading to a successful presentation?  Here are David’s tips:

  • Your presentation should tell a story with your investment highlights as the storyline. It should not just be a recitation of facts.
  • Mind your word count, especially with bullet points. You should have no more than six bullets to a slide and no more than six words per bullet point, as a rule of thumb. The bullet points are only a visual aid for what you say. Put any more on the slides and people will either ignore them or spend too much time reading them and miss what you’re saying (but they’ll probably just ignore them).
  • Use graphics instead of bullets when possible. Just don’t forget to explain them. Not all graphics are apparent in what they’re showing.
  • Even if you use graphs or tables, though, also include a meaningful message with them on the slide. What story do those numbers tell?
  • Make sure each slide is limited to one important message and have that message in the title of the slide.

These tips are just half of the presentation, though. You could have the world’s greatest slides and they’ll be wasted by a poor delivery and inhibit the important messages from getting through to the audience.

So, follow these tips for stellar delivery.

  • Speak with clarity and confidence. That’s right, confidence. It’s not just for dating advice. Stand up straight and walk around if possible. If you’re using a microphone that’s stuck in one place behind a podium don’t grip onto that podium. In fact, refrain from touching it.
  • It’s okay to speak with your hands, but make sure you’re using them to accentuate the crucial points and not just fiddling with them. When you’re not using them, just keep them in front of you, slightly clasped. Don’t put them in your pockets. And don’t make a conscious effort to not use them because that will make you appear stiff.
  • Make eye contact. With all those eyes peering at you, you may feel the need to scan the room to make it look like you’re talking with everyone. And while you will want to scan the room to keep the people in the back interested, you’ll also want to make one-on-one eye contact. David suggests slowly moving your eyes from one person to another. In my own experience, if you know your audience’s names and you see that someone isn’t paying attention, slip their name into a sentence. They’ll start paying attention after that. (This only works in relatively small groups.)
  • Maintain a conversational tone. If you’re like me and have a naturally monotone voice, you’ll need to work on your inflection.
  • Avoid acronyms unless they’re widely known like IRS or SEC. It’s maddening to hear or read an acronym that you’re unfamiliar with and having to go find what it stands for. The last thing you want is to spew out an acronym that you incorrectly assume everyone is familiar with and then have your audience start murmuring among themselves trying to figure it out.

And, lastly, practice practice practice. Put the effort into researching what makes the best slides to articulate your investment thesis and then practice your delivery over and over until you’ve got it down. The results of your efforts will mean investors buying your stock instead of slipping into a boredom-induced coma.

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